During the month of April, National Poetry Month, I have tried new forms of poetry in an attempt to step out of my “box.” The box includes the forms of poetry I am comfortable with as well as my usual writing habits. While I’ve continued to write everyday, I have also been exploring places to publish some poetry and even made two submissions. I am continuing this “new” habit into May to see what I can prepare for the future. I’ve found that it gives me purpose and motivates me to finish some of the longer pieces that I’ve started as well as edit some of my past work. Those are all tasks that I veer partially away from because of fear of failure.
Another way I’m stepping out of my box is to face that fear of failure by sharing my poetry and prose with more than those just on my blog or personal Facebook page. Yesterday, I sent a pocket poem to approximately forty educators in our school district with little explanation other than I wrote it to show my appreciation for them and what they’ve done this year for our students. Our district seems to be experiencing a “rough” time as some parents are anxious to unmask their students and exercising their right to be vocal about it to the school board. I wanted to make sure teachers I knew who were student focused and invested in their learners that they were very much appreciated by someone – me. Sending a poem out to people that do not even know that I write daily or have a blog was somewhat intimidating for me after I had done it. But, honestly, I didn’t give it a thought before I sent it – it’s as though I was compelled to do so. The feedback has been fantastic and I think hearing from these teachers (even though I do not have a student in the system any longer), has done as much for me as it has for them. Stepping out of my box was okay – I’m still standing, smiling, and writing! You can read yesterday’s post, which includes the poem, here – if you are interested.
This all started me thinking about how I would get my former writer’s circle students to step out of their box when it came to creative writing – which always included a month of poetry (March) and was always intimidating.
One of the ways I would do that would be to plan to read something to them at the start of our short weekly session. Usually, it was on the topic we were trying to learn – and when it came to poetry, I had my favorites that I fell back on. Today, these might be called mentor texts – for the pieces were chosen specifically to demonstrate something to the students. I realize not every piece shared with students is considered mentor text but I also know that teachers were reading and sharing mentor texts with their students long before it was called that. The vernacular in education is bothersome to me at times.
But, I digress. As I sat this morning, having my tea, I thumbed through one of the many books of children’s poetry I inherited from my mother. The book that caught my attention was Kids Pick the Funniest Poems by Bruce Lansky (1991). It’s a compilation of poems from both famous and not so famous authors that kids thought were funny when Lansky had them “rate” the poems many years ago. I like word play and have found that students typically like the fun they can have with words too. One such poem Lansky shares that shows some word play is this short anonymous poem called
"Night, night," said one knight to the other knight the other night. "Night, night, knight." © Anonymous, published in Bruce Lansky's Kids Pick the Funniest Poems (1991). After reading this poem, I would start the lesson by having the students generate homophones they knew. Always being prepared for our lessons, I would have a list to offer just a few examples (other than the above text) to get them going. These might have been: Ball - Bawl Caret - Carrot Dual - Duel I - Eye Write - Right Once the homophones were selected, and I would have tried to have each student in the group select or come up with different ones and work on constructing a short poem similar to the one I read. My students typically enjoyed these exercises, even though they seemed intimidating at first.
This met my primary objective of an enrichment group like Writer’s Circle. Students need to find out that writing can be fun. When the pressure of producing for a grade (none given) but instead for copious, supportive verbal and written feedback, amazing things happened! In short, I’ve also found that some ideas, habits, and lessons need to stay part of the teacher’s box of tricks!
Today is Poetry Friday. The host of the round up is Matt at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme. Thank you, Matt, for hosting! Please visit Matt’s blog by clicking on the link for more inspiring poetry and ideas.
This is an aside and a later added addendum: why are most Poetry Friday pieces added on Thursday? I am always at the end of the group to post, even though most of my posts are done by mid-day. Just wondering if someone can clear this up for me! Thanks!